Citizen-led environmental campaign 'Save Maldives', on Thursday, issued a public announcement that a rare and endangered species of mangrove plant, by the scientific name of "Brugueira hainesii" was discovered in Kulhudhuffushi, Haa Dhaalu Atoll in August 2019.
Stating that Adam Abdulla, an advocate and volunteer of the collective made the initial discovery, Save Maldives disclosed that the information was then conveyed to Dr Norman Duke from the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) at Australia's James Cook University. Subsequently, samples were collected and sent to TropWATER in September 2019, under the guidance of Dr Duke and his team, for the purpose of conducting further analysis and formal identification.
Highlighting that the presence of Bruguiera hainesii was not unknown to locals of many islands in which the species was identified, Save Maldives revealed that the mangrove plant was commonly known as 'Bodukandoo' or 'Maakandoo' among locals.
Save Maldives attributed the delayed announcement to the "continuing fear of attacks on vulnerable mangrove ecosystems, considering the government’s record of irreversibly destroying mangrove habitats for unsustainable infrastructure development".
The collective noted that Kulhudhuffushi had suffered considerable habitat loss after becoming a target for such activity.
However, the collective stated that the discovery of a critically endangered mangrove species in the northern islands of Maldives was a welcome development amid an unexplained mass die-off of mangroves occurring across the country, particularly in the north.
"The discovery of critically endangered Bruguiera hainesii is particularly important as its presence in multiple locations in the Maldives will help to highlight the significance and urgency of mangrove conservation and restoration in the country", stated Save Maldives.
Expressing concern regarding the government's "slow and weak" response to the unprecedented rates of mangrove die-off across the archipelago, Save Maldives called on the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Finance, President’s Office, parliament, the newly appointed board of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and other relevant state authorities to fulfill the following demands:
- Take urgent measures to implement recommendations from the Mangrove Action Project (MAP) report in order to protect the remaining part of Kulhudhuffushi wetlands and stop further losses in addition to protecting it as a site of special environmental significance due to the presence of Bruguiera hainesii.
-Introduce urgent and substantive measures to address mangrove mass die-off events occurring across the northern region of the country, as well as developing and implementing management plans for conservation
- Facilitate funding from the Green Tax Fund to enable the aforementioned actions and ensure the fund is utilised to protect, preserve and conserve natural ecosystems and biodiversity
Significant wetlands and mangrove habitats are present in 74 Maldivian islands while mangroves are recorded in a total 150 islands across the country. Maldives hosts a high number of true mangrove and associate mangrove species, with the new finding bringing the number of nationally recorded species to a total of 15.